Substantial change in the business world is nothing new. What’s new are change drivers and the speed of change.
The practice of ‘change management’ has been utilized for many years to help organizations process and successfully implement changes as broadly and deeply as specific changes warranted.
However, prior change management strategies and methods aren’t capable of addressing the vast changes organizations face today.
Today digital trends – AKA “the digitization of everything” – are primary drivers in the synchronized growth of multiple technology innovations. If harnessed right, these innovations will enable companies to engage with customers better, faster and on a broader scale. And, digital tools help gather the right customer information, use it to achieve a deeper customer understanding, and respond with better, more personalized customer experiences and greater contextual relevance. Looking forward, the inability to execute at this level will reduce offerings to commodities with little customer value.
Implications to Organization Structure
Company leaders who comprehend the extent of change required also understand inherent challenges in developing a comprehensive and flexible digital strategy that obsoletes current business and operating models. Embracing a digital environment mandates correct and simultaneous execution of numerous individual tasks, requires complete cross-channel connectivity and continuous customer, supplier, employee and stakeholder engagement. No small feat. Highly talented leadership is required to focus innovation and differentiation, prioritize investments and effectively communicate the ‘big picture’ throughout their organizations.
PwC’s 2015 Digital IQ® Survey* identified 10 critical capabilities correlated with strong financial performance. Survey results showed huge disparity between “Digital IQ® Leaders” and study laggards. Leaders – who embraced and implemented these 10 attributes in their organizations – realized revenue and profit growth at twice the rate of study laggards.
10 Critical Digital Attributes
1. CEO champion
2. Digital leaders set strategy
3. Executive team engaged
4. Strategy-sharing across organization
5. Outside-in approach
6. Driven by competitive advantage
7. Effective use of business data
8. Proactive cybersecurity
9. Digital roadmap
10. Consistent measurement
PwC’s Digital IQ survey also identified the top three reasons businesses are pursuing rapid digital integration:
1. Grow revenue 45%
2. Create better customer experiences 25%
3. Increase profits 12%
Implications for the Workforce
The extensive changes required to transform a business – from business model through everyday tasks – into an agile and responsive team environment of constant changes is a formidable challenge for business leaders in every industry.
However, leaders in high-tech industries, such as telecom, feel even greater pressure to execute quickly, smoothly and comprehensively.
Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and CEO** believes complete reinvention is the only way toward a successful future. He views obsolescence as the alternative. However, achieving such a huge goal will require retraining AT&T’s 280,000 employees. Mr. Stephenson doesn’t mince words. He believes employees will soon need to be able to make swift business decisions in the face of a “fire hose of data” continuously coming into the company. Continuous learning is not optional.
Two years ago AT&T began a program that helps pay for some of the education and new skills required for employees in many future AT&T jobs. In a recent interview, Mr. Stephenson voiced his views.
“There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop. People who do not spend five to 10 hours a week in online learning will obsolete themselves with technology.”
Not surprisingly, some employees around during AT&T’s numerous breakups and reinventions aren’t interested in participating in yet another reinvention of “old Ma Bell.” Some, close to retirement, can hold out. Others will likely have few career options without obtaining new skills.
Looking forward, businesses must adapt, learn, retool, repeat…or face failure.
1. Evaluate employees’ current knowledge status relative to that needed for future success. Identify ways to effectively communicate to different employee groups what will be required in the future for jobs similar to those they hold now.
2. Prioritize future increased technology (and other) skill needs. Focus first on the areas, levels and specific job functions where the need is greatest – and failing to increase skill sets is likely to create business issues first.
3. Develop a plan to help employees gain the required knowledge and skills. Help can include holding courses at work, allowing employees to take courses nearby during work hours, paying for some or all of the cost of their education, helping with related situations and expenses such as daycare, caregiving, etc. Given the sizeable investment the company has for employees, it’s important for the company to very prominently demonstrate its investment – not only in future job skills – but also in valuing each employee willing to make this future commitment.
**Hardy, Quentin, Gearing Up for the Cloud, AT&T Tells Its Workers: Adapt, or Else, The New York Times, February 13, 2016